When the winners of the 19th edition of Canadian Interiors’ Best of Canada Awards were unveiled last week, Menkes Shooner Dagenais LeTourneux Architectes were delighted to learn that they were awarded not one but two prizes in the “Institutional” category, one for the Maison des étudiants de l’ÉTS (ÉTS Student Centre) and the other for the Vitrine étudiante de Polytechnique (Polytechnique Montréal Student Centre). These annual prizes, which recognize and reward the best Canadian design projects, will honor 31 winners at a gala evening in Toronto on November 30th as part of the IIDEX National Design + Architecture Exposition and Conference.
This recognition adds itself to the prestigious American Architecture Prize awarded earlier this week to the Maison des étudiants de l’ÉTS in the “Architectural Design / Educational Building” category. An international competition which crowns the best architecture, interior design and landscape design projects, the AAP rewards some 100 projects among its 40 proposed categories. The winning projects will be honored in New York City next October 25th during a ceremony to be held at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
After four years of work, the recent inauguration of the Maison des étudiants de l’École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) unveiled a signature building which enhances an entire neighborhood in the Griffintown district. Inspired by an icehouse that once stood on the site, the crystal-like volume is remarkably light, open and airy. The mixed-use program was unified into a singular sculpted volume, its offsets interacting in a refreshing way with the more sober and introverted campus buildings. The massing was carved out on its south and east sides to create space for a future park that extends inside the building’s public program, maximizing sunlight and offering the community an abundantly glazed atrium that showcases student life within. On the street side, it offers mediated views on the upper functions through an intriguing five-storey high image digitally imprinted onto the glass curtain wall. The image is an abstract representation of the energetic network of ideas on the campus evoking the innovative spirit and outreach to the world, which ÉTS intends to project. Inside, the atrium is conceived as a landscape in continuity with the exterior park. An impressive cantilevered truss, recalling the railway bridges and industrial structures in the area, lifts its grand staircase above the outdoor space on its south side, offering glimpses of Montreal’s cityscape from the park. A spiralling promenade weaves through the atrium under a warm, hovering topography made of birch wood slats. This inhabited circulation interconnects multiple zones used in everyday student life, each endowed with distinct light and acoustical qualities. Custom furniture such as integrated cushioned nooks, and carefully selected seating typologies punctuate the open space with a wide array of spatial experiences for relaxing, studying and socializing. The promenade visually and physically ties the campus together, starting with a tunnel link from the adjacent pavilion to the east to reach the student residences through a planned bridge to the west. It constitutes an indoor, year-round park offering an open and central congregating space for large events and exhibitions to both the ÉTS and Griffintown communities.